A sect formed by Abu l-Hasan ‘Ali ibn Isma’il al-Ash’ari. born A.H. 260 (A.D. 873-4).
They hold that the attributes of God are distinct from His essence, yet in such a way as to forbid any comparison being made, between God and ins creatures. They say they are not “‘ain nor gihair:”, not of His essence, nor distinct from it: i.e. they cannot be compared with any other things. They also hold that God has one eternal will, from which proceed all things, the good and the evil, the useful and the hurtful. The destiny of man was written on the eternal table before the world was created. So far they go with the Sifatis, but in order to preserve the moral responsibility of man they say that he has power to convert will into action. But this power cannot create anything new, for then God’s sovereignty would be impaired; so they say that God in His providence so orders matters that whenever “a man desires to do a certain thing, good or bad, the action corresponding to the desire is, there and then, created by God, and, as it were, fitted on to the desire.” Thus it seems as if it can’t naturally from the will of the man whereas it does not. This action is called Kasb (acquisition), because it is acquired by a special creative act of God. It is an act directed to the obtaining of profit or the removing of injury the term is therefore in applicable to the Deity. Abu Bakr al-Bakil’ Iani, a disciple of a1-Asli’ari, says: ‘The essence or substance of the action is the effect of the power of God, but its being an action of obedience, such as prayer, or an action of disobedience, such as fornication, are qualities of the action, which proceed from the power of man.” The Imam Al- Haramain (A.H. 419-478) held “that the actions of men were effected by the power which God has created in man.” Abu Ishaq al-Isfariyini says: “That which maketh impression or hath influence on action, is a compound of the power of God and the power of man.” They also believe that the word of God is eternal, though they acknowledge that the vocal sounds used in the Qur’an, which are the manifestation of that word, are created. They say. in short, that the Qur’an contains (1) the eternal word which existed in the essence of God before time was; and (2) the word which consists of sounds and combinations of letters. The last they call the created word.
Thus Al-Ash’ari traversed the main positions of the Mutazilites, denying that man can, by the aid of his reason alone, rise to the knowledge of good and evil. He must exercise no judgment, but accept all that is revealed. He has no right to apply the moral laws which affect men, to the actions of God. It cannot be asserted by the human reason that the good will he rewarded or the bad punished in a future world. Man must always approach God as a slave, in whom there is no light or knowledge to judge of the actions of the Supreme. Whether God will accept the penitent sinner or not cannot be asserted, for He is an absolute Sovereign, above all law. (Sale, from Ibn Khaldun; Die Mu’taziliten oder die Freidenker in Islam, von H. Steiner. 1865: Zur-Geschichte Abu’l-Hasan al-ash’arish, von W. Spitta, 1876: De Strijd over het Dogma in den Islam tot op El-ash’ari, door Dr,M. Th. Houtsma, Leiden, 1875; and Exposen de la Refore de l’Islamisme, by M.A.F. Mehren Leiden, 1878.)
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam